The Youngbergs: Kyle, Karen, Gary and Kirk
Happy 40th Anniversary!
Interview with Gary Youngberg, co-owner
1. Please tell us how your store got its start.
I actually taught myself how to make jewelry from a couple books I checked out of the library my first year of college. I was going to give my girlfriend (now my wife, Karen) a Valentine present but was too broke to afford anything. I bought some beads, started stringing and eventually the girls wanted rings and other things. This provided the impetus to check out the books and turn my dorm room into a small workbench complete with a torch! We did a few art fairs where we peddled my creations and realized we could make a bit of money doing so. After about two years of art fairs, we opened in August 1976.
Was there ever a time when it looked as if the business may not survive?
Well, my sense of optimism about things prevented me from looking very far down that hole, but sure, there were times when we wondered if we would survive.
What has been the key to the store’s growth and longevity?
Quality jewelry, much of it made in our store, great prices that don’t require bogus sales, a desire to show that a college dropout CAN make it and top-notch service second to none. In addition, I have had the honor of working with a couple guys, Dave Anderson and Scott Sorem, for many years, I taught Dave how to make jewelry when he was 14. He started working for me when he was 18 and is now 52. Scott, a friend of Dave’s, has been with us for 20 years. And I would be remiss if I did not mention my sons, Kyle and Kirk, who came into the business because they wanted to, not because we expected them to. Their insight and passion for this business has brought us to levels we had not considered 10 years ago.
Have there been any vendors who have been particularly important to the store’s success?
Of course, most of us have relied on Stuller for many things through the years and I am grateful for their products and services. In addition, I had one diamond dealer who convinced me to buy more as long as the price was right and the terms were available. I expressed reservations about buying more than I thought I should early on and I remember him saying, “What, are you going out of business soon?”
What’s the main lesson all those years in the business taught your family about jewelry retail?
As a family, we are on call 24/7/365. My wife understood that early in our career and I’m proud to say my daughter-in-laws, Katie and Lori, understand it as well. In addition, we have been very supportive of multiple charities, school carnivals, post proms, etc. and we are so happy to be able to support those who have helped us grow and thrive through the years!
What’s your favorite True Tale from your years in the business?
I was once showing a diamond under the microscope to a couple, the woman of which had on a semi-plunging top. I commented to them, while viewing the stone, “Take a look at that cleavage” and quickly realized what I had said. I looked up, caught their eyes and we all started laughing!
What has the latest generation of owners brought to the business?
Kyle and Kirk, 36 and 34, have brought us more up to date on technology.
What’s next for the store?
Well, considering we have never had a business plan of any sort, I can’t really say anything beyond continuing to do what we do and serve our customers to the very best of our abilities. This is why Ames Silversmithing has been voted, for 13 years running, the Best Jewelry Store in Story County.
How will you celebrate this milestone?
We’ll have a nice sale with a lot of great door prizes, food and drinks, etc.
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